Australian Government Failing Most Vulnerable Children Almost 30 Years After Signing UN Children's Convention – Hope 103.2

Australian Government Failing Most Vulnerable Children Almost 30 Years After Signing UN Children’s Convention

By Anne RinaudoWednesday 7 Nov 2018Open House with Stephen O'Doherty

Listen: Mercy Jumo in conversation with Stephen O’Doherty.

The Children’s Report, released by the Australian Child Rights Taskforce and submitted to the United Nations Children’s Committee has found Australia is not making sufficient progress in policies and programs to support children, particularly disadvantaged children in our country – in fact, in some areas we are going backwards.

Small, isolated improvements

Senior Policy Advisor, co-researcher and co-author of The Children’s Report, Freyana Irani, said, “While many children in Australia enjoy a good quality of life, for the ones that don’t, the extent of the disparity is shocking. Almost 30 years after committing to minimum standards for our children by signing the UN Children’s Convention, improvements have been only incremental and isolated.”

One in six live in poverty

Ms Irani said, “We talk about a fair chance for our children, but one in five is starting school developmentally vulnerable, one in six is living in poverty, one in seven has experienced a mental disorder, and youth suicide is the leading and increasing cause of death among children and young people today.”

World Vision call for action

Australia’s leading humanitarian agency World Vision was also involved in preparing the Children’s Report and has backed UNICEF Australia’s call for a national policy and implementation agenda for Australia’s children and young people.

Measure if it is effective

“It’s not enough to want to do good for children, we must ensure any changes we want to bring about are the right ones and are sustainable,” World Vision’s Senior Policy Advisor for Child Rights, Mercy Jumo told Open House. “That means we need to have clarity as a nation about what it is we are trying to achieve and clear ways of measuring how effective we are in achieving this.”

Ethical action

A national agenda with a coordinating mechanism for the nation’s responsibilities to our children, would enable Australia to have a real chance of applying the Convention on the Rights of the Child Ms Jumo says.

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Left: Report cover. Right: Mercy Jumo WOrld VIsion Senior Child Policy Advisor. Photo Credit World Vision.

Concerns about Nauru and Indigenous children

“Currently Australia is most blatantly and violently breaching the Convention’s ethical principles and standards by continuing to keep children in indefinite detention in Nauru. The problems facing young Indigenous people is also a huge challenge for us as a nation.” she says

The Children’s Report found that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children experience poorer outcomes across every area of wellbeing and development, including education and health. Last year, one in five Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders between 15 and 19 years of age reported that discrimination is a personal concern.

Walking the talk

“We must walk the talk and apply the standards of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child locally to protect children in Australia regardless of their background, gender, ethnicity or location. We must also measure how and when children’s rights are either being realised or violated and where the gaps are.

World Vision’s Australia Program

“World Vision works hard to protect children overseas, and through our Australia Program we have partnered with Indigenous communities to improve outcomes for Indigenous children here in Australia; but we need a national agenda and a coordinated approach from Government,” she said.

“We can’t achieve any significant change, including the UN Sustainable Development Goals if we don’t get it right for Australia’s youngest and most vulnerable. It’s a call to leadership.”

Juvenile justice shame

“It’s scandalous that more than 14 inquiries have condemned Australia’s youth justice facilities, where children have been experienced practices that may amount to torture, cruel and inhuman treatment, since 2015,” Ms Jumo said, “yet Australia’s criminal justice system continues to imprison children as young as ten. We need real action.”

Also criticised in the report are failures in the out of home care system. Open House earlier this year talked about aspects of being in care and leaving care to fend for yourself at eighteen .

The Children’s Report shows that government efforts to improve outcomes for Indigenous children have failed to realise their goals, including those in the ‘Closing the Gap’ strategy.

In their own words

As one young Aboriginal in New South Wales put it:

“When Australia was invaded, they cut off the land, which was food resources, then they cut off family, then they cut off culture, connection and spirituality. And then, what do you have left? Like, you’ve got nothing. So how do you bring that back? You bring that back by listening to what we say. We know what works for us.”    

The Children’s Report, contains the voices of children and findings from consultations with 527 children and young people in 30 remote, regional and urban locations across Australia, The report makes 190 recommendations.

To listen to the podcast of this conversation click the red play button at the top of the page, or you can subscribe to Open House podcasts in iTunes and they will appear in your feed.

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